When I read, I sort of ‘see’ the story in my head, like a movie but with a lot less of the action. Sometimes it’s a scene only, other times, its characters that I see very clearly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a running movie in my head, but more or less a picture slide show that accompanies the book.
This is really handy, until a movie comes out and every character and every scene looks different than the images I created in my head. This is the reason why I like to read a book before I see a movie but it doesn’t always work to my advantage for the movie viewing. An example would be The Lord of the Rings. I adore the movies but the characters, and especially the pronunciation of names, were far outside of what I had pictured, although some things came very close. It seriously made me wonder if Peter Jackson can read minds… Another example is historical fiction. The settings are extravagant and so are the costumes which make it another good genre for picturing a book. Contemporary fiction, which I don’t read much of, doesn’t work as well as say fantasy or historical fiction which might be one of the reasons I’m not drawn to it as often. It’s also one of the reasons I tend to skip battle scenes in books. I have an amazing ability to picture copious amounts of blood and gore. I have no idea why this is.
I do find this function of my brain helpful, to a certain extent. Over time, these mental images I create while reading tend to fade which is one of the reasons I re-read so much. I guess I like replaying the story and I do like to revisit a story to see if I have the same reaction to the scenes and characters years later. It also helps when I write reviews but sometimes the scenes accumulated in my head have nothing to do with the plot. Bad function of my brain or bad story, take your pick; we all process things differently.
You see, reading is so much more than words for me and I suspect the same is true for many of you out there as well. I connect with the words in ways that make a story more than ink on paper. When I return to a story I know, part of it is to relive the story, visit known characters, and to see those images again and see if life has changed how I view the story.
When you read a story, what do you see? Or maybe a better question — what does the story do for you?